An old saying offers this gem of insight: “You get what you pay for.” Here’s another, even better (or worse) example: “A woman, a dog, and a walnut tree/ The more you beat them the better they’ll be.” Sometimes old sayings can have more in common with costume jewelry than real gemstones.
A couple of nights ago, horse owners in the small town where John and I live, in addition to horse owners in a nearby town, all congregated at our library to hear a local veterinarian discuss “Emergency Health Care,” otherwise known as, “What can I do to help my horse until the vet arrives?” The room was too small. The librarian had set out 75 chairs, and somebody was sitting in all of them. Others sat on the floor with their backs to the wall. Total number in the audience: 83 people. It’s one of the biggest turnouts the library has ever seen—and it was free.
This is a horsey community. Even a visitor from another planet would probably figure this out. Let’s see—two feed stores in town (which also sell tack, both English and Western, and supplements to make your horse’s hooves stronger, to calm him down, to de-worm him, and so on. Our intra-planetary visitor would also see the sign in front of the post office: DO NOT TIE HORSES TO THE RAILING. And if our visitor had acquired a taste for Mexican food, he would notice one of the local restaurants has a tie rail behind it. There’s even a tie rail next to the library.
I was the one who asked the three large animal veterinarians at a local pet clinic if they would be willing to offer a series of talks about horse owning. They said yes. The first discussion was on nutrition—the various types of hay and grain, and why individual horses might prefer a diet of alfalfa while others (the so-called easy keepers) need grass hay. Half the people I saw were taking notes. Next in the series will be a discussion of dental care for horses. Will the people listening to these discussions become better owners? I hope so. Education is a powerful tool, and having a knowledgeable owner can make a huge difference in a horse’s life.
What would it take to start a similar program in your town? Fortunately for me, I didn’t have to hunt for a facility to host these discussions, or an organization to sponsor them. Continuing education is a priority at this library, and the Library Manager was happy to work with me. I didn’t have to drum up a sponsor, either, since I’m a member of the Library Committee in our small community. If your local Friends of the Library won’t back you—claiming there aren’t enough people who own horses and nobody will come—find a group that will sponsor you. Do you have a local chapter of Equestrian Trails (ETI)? Work through them.
Here’s another old saying, and this one’s pure gold: “Where there’s a will there’s a way.”